My fellow corps members started advising us to leave but we insisted we can do it. One of them even told me that wasn’t I the one who collapsed at the parade ground last time during Tuesdays and Thursdays parade and I want to participate in this? I still haven’t listened, I have the hope and courage that I can do it.
If you’ve never served your NYSC in Nigerian Defence Academy, Kaduna, you will not understand what resilience, unity and valour means. Perhaps, you’ll not understand what the slogan ” we will make you do it even against your wish here”, perseverance and struggles mean. I happened to be the Public Relation Officer (PRO) of Nigerian Defence Academy Youth Corpers Association and any information from the academy is passed through me and as such I’m the medium of communication.
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One evening, which happened to be Wednesday 9th November,2022, I received a message from the Lieutenant Commander,M.A Bukar of Nigerian Defence Academy to announce to the general corp members serving in Nigerian Defence Academy, Kaduna and popularly called NDAYCANS that there would be a race competition for cadets of Nigerian Defence Academy, Kaduna the next day and all sundry are to attend. I quickly arranged the information and informed the general public on our WhatsApp platform that they should get set by 1500hrs the next day, they’re all to attend the competition. They’re all to wear their tracksuits and buses will be available to take them to the parade ground in NDA, Afaka.
Everyone gets ready the next day to go and watch the competition. I also went there as a spectator and I never knew I would end up becoming a participant. We were all seated at the bus by 1500hrs and singing morale songs while going to the parade ground from Ribadu Cantonment, Nigerian Defence Academy (Old site). Everyone serving in the academy knows that every parade or competition that cadets will embark on, it’s compulsory for us to attend as spectators, participants or so. We’re subjected to Military laws since we’re serving in a military institution, the commandant’s parade of Tuesdays and Thursdays are compulsory. No one dares not to attend or else, you’re either fined three thousand naira for missing each or you’re sanctioned.
At the commandant’s parade of Tuesdays and Thursdays, we’re expected to be at the sports complex, Ribadu Cantonment, Nigerian Defence Academy by 1500hrs dressed in our parade wears and by 1600hrs, exercise, jogging and many more kick-start and after the jogging, there’s games and other things available for us to do. One cannot just be idle as keeping fit and participating in a particular game is very important. We’ve been divided into different Battalions just like the cadets who are divided into Burma, Abyssinia, Mogadishu, Dalet, Arakan and Ashanti battalions with each battalion with their instructors.
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We do our jogging based on our battalions for easy recording of who attended the parade or not and with our instructors and after the exercise with various soldiers and officers, myself, Ibrahim Hassan, Ahmed Buturu,Jabir and others will now embarked on a 3.2 kilometres race and this is done by myself and my team every Tuesdays and Thursdays. There’s no doubts that serving in NDA is another experience that’s worth it; drills, parades, obstacle climbing,beam heaving, dash-back,press up, beating of retreat, cross country, shooting range, commandant’s rehearsals and luncheon, CBC and Deputy Commandant’s rehearsals, Camp Highland, Camp fire nights, Tombola nights and many more parades are compulsory for anyone doing his youth service in NDA to attend and sometimes participate.
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I’ve never regretted serving in NDA but my expectations were to just enjoy a peaceful and stress-free service year never knowing I won’t be the owner of my self and time anymore but the Army not to talk about the stress of acclimatisation, de-socialising and re-socialising to the military life and ethics. At NDA Corpers Lodge, there’s a duty roaster for night watch for the guys which begins by 1am to 4am and it’s compulsory for anyone on duty that day to collect gadgets and guide the lodge or there’s strict sanction for not falling out on your duty day. There’s also general sanitation, individual sanitation and many more. The toilets and everywhere are kept clean which anyone who served or is serving in the Academy can swear that one can even eat his food in the NDA Corpers Lodge toilet as it’s clean. We always go with the slogan “that cleanliness is next to Godliness”.
However, at the parade ground in Afaka, NDA cadets were already prepared for the race as we were already seated as spectators to watch them race. The S01 admin, NDA came over to ask how many corp members are to volunteer to join the race and about 20 of us or so volunteered and our names were written down. All I knew was that I will be able to run that race since I can race the normal 3.2 kilometres race. The S01 admin returned back to call us out for the race after telling us that it’s a 15 kilometres race and if we can’t do it we should leave it as the academy will not be responsible for us if any eventualities happen for the cadets have already signed their death warrant already. If we collapsed or died on the way, no ambulance will be available to pick us. Though,I knew his words were just to scare us from joining the race and this still never daunts me that we’re going for a journey of perseverance, stress, war and hardship.
My fellow corps members started advising us to leave but we insisted we can do it. One of them even told me that wasn’t I the one who collapsed at the parade ground last time during Tuesdays and Thursdays parade and I want to participate in this? I still haven’t listened,I have the hope and courage that I can do it. The Chief of Staff, Cadet Brigade, Group Captain A.S Abubakar came over while we were assembled with cadets for the race to advice us that while he was a cadet in NDA, during such competition, anyone he passes on the way will never pass him again and we should take the race slowly at the start before increasing the race later and we all were happy with the words of encouragement from him. The S01 admin came over again to motivate us that if we first the cadets arrived at the parade ground, our lives will change in the academy and we were happy and thanked him.
Tight securities and medical facilities have been prepared for the race competition and After the S01 admin motivation, some of us went to urinate before the race commenced and we also discussed how to go about the race; solidarity and togetherness will be what will help us reach our destination. The Cadets Brigade Commander, Brigadier General U.A Lawal came over and saw us finally, advised us and then a pistol was shot at the sky for the race to commence. We commenced the race alongside cadets and we left the venue which happens not to be even the parade ground thinking the race was just 15Kilometre never knowing there was more to it that we didn’t know but the journey definitely told us.
As we began the journey, I closed my mouth for air not to enter, started jogging slowly and gradually mixed-up with the regular combatants cadets. I was racing with my friend, Hassan Ibrahim Musa and before I realised he disappeared and I continued jogging with some cadets; I raced pass some and some race passed me. I never gave up even when I started getting tired. I never knew the road or where we were heading to but I was certain we would reach our destination. My whole thinking was that we will begun the race from the parade ground which is the starting point and pass through NDA Equitation junction, follow NDA Navy round about, then arrive NDA Army round about, and return back through Academic Registry building to the parade ground again and the race is over.
Perplexing, it daunted on me that it’s when you reach Equitation junction that you’re said to be stretching your body and your legs for the race ahead as we haven’t covered even 1percent out of 10 percent of the actual race. Thus, you have to pass through the Maintenance yard, Farming area, Shooting range, and pass through the bushes and many more. After passing through the bushes before reaching the small stream ahead, I met my neighbour from Benue state whom we happen to be in ABU, Zaria before he left for NDA and we communicated and he commended me for joining the race as he’s currently in his Terma three in the Academy and so he left me behind so he could reach the first or second cage of the competition or else he will be served job.
Upon reaching the small dirty stream ahead, I saw cadets washing their faces, hands, legs and some even going to the extent of drinking the dirty water. I reached there, washed my face, hands and I almost drank the dirty water out of thirst. I was so thirsty that if not for anything I would have drank that water and moved on. While racing, I thought of just going back but that was impossible and I thought of just staying back but the thought of all cadets leaving me behind for bandits to kidnap me won’t let me stay but to continue the journey. Cadets were just collapsing on the way and you would think they were dead with some vomiting what they ate and if I had eaten anything that afternoon before the race,I would have collapsed on the way.
After the washing of faces and hands we passed through Demo Battalion, NDA Staff School Afaka, followed David Ejor gate and reached Maj.Gen. David Ejor gate and that assumed the beginning of the other phase of the race and prior to reaching Major Gen. David Ejor gate, myself, Hassan Ibrahim Musa, Al-Hassan Labaran, Williams Ogbodo, Enjoyment, Sani(Navy boy) and others met finally on the way and we were so thirsty that we shared one bottle of water given to us by some snippers soldiers on the way. Our legs were hurt and tired so we started walking gently and assisting one another to move.
We began the second phase of the race by passing through New Soldiers Club that is now under construction, passed through Academy House, Afaka. We were so exhausted, weak and tired and as we didn’t know the road, we kept asking the cadets when we would reach the final gate and they replied to us in scary intonations that we still have about 11km or so to reach our destination. I regretted that if I knew this race would be so, I wouldn’t have joined it and at that time, none of us were concerned about arriving first but just to arrive safely to the parade ground for we’ve given up on coming first or last. The journey is of no retreat and no surrender.
As we started approaching the parade ground from a far distance, we were so delightful and that inspired us to increase our speed. We kept moving it to a closer distance and finally we arrived back at the parade ground. As at the time I reached the parade ground I didn’t know when those spectators that laughed at me at the starting point, began to cheer and shout ” P.R.O as I made it to the top seven among the corps members who embarked on the race.
However, it was quite a tough, rough and stressful journey that will teach you resilience, perseverance, solidarity and struggles. It’s an experience that inculcated military confidence and competence on us. A race of survival and patience. We never chicken out, no one collapsed among the corps members as we moved it and overcome the race and finally made it back to the parade ground.
I won’t forget the comedian at the same time, man of the race. He’s the tallest, oldest and barely the strongest. If you should take a look at him you would think he would race a 50 kilometres race as his body and height will deceive you. At the initial of the race, I never knew he was part of the race not until I was told by a colleague that we were running together that he was at the back assisting the ambulance to get cadets who collapsed on the way inside the ambulance. Prior to the race during our Tuesdays and Thursdays parade, I’ve never known him to be able to race as I underestimated his prowess. But though at the race, we waited for him to show up after everyone came back but he was no where to be found.
We dreaded and fearfully prayed for his arrival. We went around asking if anyone has seen him or knows his whereabouts but know one knew if he came back himself or the ambulance brought him back. All we knew was that we saw him walking slowly like someone who didn’t race at all; his clothes and shoes were not wet nor dirty and he was walking confidently around an ambulance that arrived and we concluded that the ambulance brought him back. Nevertheless, his energy, zeal, perseverance and struggle can never be underestimated not to talk of his confidence and competence. This man is no one else’s but Abdullahi Zubairu popularly known as BAZAI. An Abusite and Masscommunicationist who’s different from others.
I know everyone will be anticipating to know what kind of a race we embarked on. It’s called CROSS COUNTRY, a 15km military standard race which is one of the best parades that taught me a lot of lessons that I’ve ever embarked on in the only Premier Military University in West Africa and this university is none but Nigerian Defence Academy, Kaduna State.